From the Orlando Sentinel....
Every day the new Disney Dream cruise liner is at sea, its culinary team prepares more than 16,000 meals for passengers and crew. Many of those are standard buffet fare of pizza, pasta, soups and salads.
But on deck 12 of the $900 million ship is Remy, a restaurant so elite only 96 French-inspired meals are served there each night — and none of those to passengers younger than 18.
As food becomes an increasingly essential element of the cruise experience, Remy joins a growing list of restaurants on the high seas developed by celebrity chefs and offering lavish dining options.
"Building a travel experience around a culinary experience has become a key component of cruise lines," said Arnold "Arie" S. Boris, editor-in-chief of CruiseGourmet.com magazine. Boris has reviewed more than 400 cruises in his 20-year career. It's so important that "over the last 10 years, many lines have aligned themselves with top consultants as well as celebrity chefs to stay competitive."
The menu for Remy, Disney Cruise Line's first premier restaurant, was developed by two award-winning chefs: Scott Hunnel of Victoria & Albert's at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and Arnaud Lallement from l'Assiette Champenoise near Reims, France.
The menu ranges from French classics (smoked-pigeon pie) to modern twists on haute cuisine (smoked bison with fennel salad and blood orange). And it's all delivered in an art-nouveau-style dining room with soft shades of green along with rich reds and gold. A subtle nod to the Disney-Pixar film "Ratatouille" incorporates images of the star Remy into the room design. Never has a rat looked so elegant.
"I dined at Remy, and it was superb, but maybe a little too over-the-top formal for a Disney cruise," said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of cruisecritic.com. "Palo, the Dream's upscale northern Italian restaurant, hits a more typical cruise-ship note."
With the success of Palo on Disney's older ships, the Magic and the Wonder, a lavish, even more intimate dining experience for the Dream was a logical step, said Anders Karlsson of Disney Cruise Line.
But enjoying the high life on the high seas comes with a surcharge to the usual all-inclusive cruise pricing. The extra cost for Remy is $75; at Palo it's $20 more for dinner and brunch, and an additional $10 for high tea. Alcohol is additional.
This premier level of dining is no surprise to some industry experts.
"If celebrity chefs can have food trucks and pop-up restaurants, they can build a real dining spot on a great ship," said Clark Wolf, a New York-based food, restaurant and hospitality consultant.
Affiliating with elite chefs is a brand extension with high impact for Disney, said Catherine Arthur-Hirschenfang, president of the Cruise Industry Institute, a consulting company for vessel public-health issues. "Disney has invested a lot of money in the Dream, and they are certain to protect their investment."
But these chic venues are just the first nibble at the daily challenge of enticing 4,000 passengers to the table onboard the Dream.
The ship also includes Disney's first rotation-dining concept at Enchanted Garden, Animator's Palate and Royal Palace. Guests eat at a different restaurant each evening, keeping their same servers and table mates.
"One general trend I didn't see on the Dream was an effort to provide travelers with more healthful and light options," said Spencer Brown of cruisecritic.com. "There's no spa menu; there's none of the [small bite] tapas-oriented food service in the bars.
"On the Dream, if you want to eat, you pretty much have to report to standard venues, most of which are buffet and require discipline" for health-conscious travelers.
"I was fairly appalled at the extent to which junk food outpaced any type of healthy options," she said.
"We've already made a few tweaks to the food service," said Karlsson of Disney Cruise Lines. "You have to be flexible. If you want guests to return, you go the extra mile. We want to be the industry standard at all levels, from quick-serve to fine dining. The Dream is a tribute to that commitment."